The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Upturn, a District of Columbia-based social organization dedicated to the intersection of social justice and technology, recently released a report that talked about the civil rights safeguards of police body cameras, and Baltimore and the District of Columbia got mixed reviews.
The report, “The Illusion of Accuracy: How Body-Worn Camera Footage Can Distort Evidence,” talks about why law enforcement departments must limit their officers in terms of the regulation of footage. The report covered 75 cities, including Baltimore and the District.
“As more police departments utilize body-worn cameras, they must not be taken as the last word for police accountability,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference. “Our scorecard shows that many police departments are failing to adopt adequate safeguards for ensuring that constitutional rights are protected, and our report shows that unrestricted footage review places civil rights and liberties at risk and undermines the goals of transparency and accountability. Without carefully crafted policy safeguards in place, there is a real risk that body-worn cameras could be used in ways that threaten civil and constitutional rights and intensify the disproportionate surveillance of communities of color.”
Harlan Yu, the executive director of Upturn, said that body-worn cameras should be used for the right reasons.
“Body-worn camera footage does not provide an objective truth of what happened during an incident,” Yu said. “It’s merely another perspective that could shed light on how an incident unfolded.”
There are eight criteria that the report has for the body-worn camera process and they are: the city’s or county’s policy on body cameras, officer discretion, personal privacy (of those being filmed), officer review, footage retention, footage misuse (penalties for), access footage (general public) and biometric use (face recognition). Baltimore scored well on the availability of a policy, officer discretion, personal privacy, footage misuse and biometric use; got a questionable score on officer review and needs to improve on footage retention and footage access.